The International Monetary Fund's African Department has selected Ghana as the site of its second Regional Technical Assistance Center in West Africa (AFRITAC West 2). The site selection was officially announced by African Department Director Antoinette Sayeh during a recent visit to Accra.
Since 1993, the IMF has established a total of seven regional technical assistance centers that are located in Africa (Tanzania, Mali, and Gabon), the Pacific (Fiji), the Caribbean (Barbados), the Middle East (Lebanon), and Central America (Guatemala). The IMF intends to establish two more centers in Africa before the end of 2010 (see Factsheet - The IMF Regional Technical Assistance and Training Centers). The centers are part of the IMF's regional approach to capacity building that allows for better tailoring of assistance to the particular needs of a region, closer coordination with other assistance providers and donor partners, and enhances the IMF's ability to respond quickly to emerging needs.
AFRITAC West 2 will serve six countries (Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone). These countries despite their differences, face broadly similar macroeconomic policy challenges and capacity building needs. Commodities, minerals and agriculture, feature prominently in the aggregate output, exports and fiscal revenues of most of them making sustainable management of resources a key priority. In all of these countries, at least a quarter of the population live below the poverty line and almost all of them rank in the lowest quartile of the United Nations' Human Development Index indicating strong need for an enabling environment. Their various poverty reduction strategy papers acknowledge this need, as well.
Technical assistance by AFRITAC West 2 could focus on tax and customs policy and administration, public financial management, financial sector regulation and supervision, public debt markets, and macroeconomic statistics. This broad strategy will, however, take into account country-specific needs. While some of the prospective members are frontier low-income countries who, with their basic institutions in place, are looking to enter the emerging market world, the remainder are being constrained by debilitating past conflicts and are experiencing critical needs on a broad front. For the first group, AFRITAC West 2 will serve as a conduit for knowledge of best international practices, and this group, in turn, will serve as a point of reference for the second group.
The establishment of AFRITAC West 2 would extend a highly successful model of providing regional technical assistance to a group of countries that are not currently covered by the existing three AFRITACs: (i) a Steering Committee-composed of representatives of beneficiary countries, donors, and the IMF-will provide strategic guidance to the center; (ii) a center coordinator-a Fund staff member-will be responsible for the day-to-day management; and (iii) the center's staff will be comprised of resident advisors, short-term experts recruited and backstopped by IMF departments responsible for technical assistance, and administrative support. AFRITAC West 2's work plans would be integrated with country reform agendas and the IMF's overall technical assistance strategy for the region.